2009 06 11- Our female humpback and calf continue up north. Towards Norway? And how to kill whales. Print
Written by Andrew Stevenson   

Our girl 87365 is still going, hopefully still with her calf, having now crossed the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.  Dr Clapham is still betting she's heading for Norway, but she has a long way to go and who knows what'll happen to the tag...

Let's hope the Norwegians don't mistake her for a minke whale. The Japanese get a lot of deserved flak for harpooning in the past five years alone, nearly 5,000 fin, sei, sperm, minke and Bryde's whales in the Antarctic and the North Pacific under self-assigned quotas for what the Japanese call 'scientific' purposes. However, the Norwegians do what they want because they aren't part of the International Whaling Commission, and therefore aren't bound by any rules or regulations. The Norwegian government unilaterally decided to resume whaling in 1993. The quota for 2009 is 885 animals, but the Norwegians seem to have slipped under most anti-whaling groups' radar.

The Norwegians, like the Greenlanders and Icelandics, believe the conservation and sustainable use of seals and whales, is in no way different from the conservation and sustainable use of other living resources.

No matter what one thinks of whales' high intelligence, their advanced social structures, the obvious emotions, and their mysterious ability to communicate over long distances, the killing of whales by the most modern methods is cruel beyond description. These are huge animals and nothing can despatch them humanely. An exploding harpoon, meant to kill quickly, rarely does more than rupture the whale's organs. The animal thrashes and gushes blood and begins to drown in its own hemorrhage. It is winched to the side of the harpoon ship, a probe is jabbed into it, and thousands of volts of electricity are run through the animal in an attempt to kill it faster. The whale screams and cries and thrashes. If it is a mother, its calf swims wildly beside her, doomed to its own motherless death later on. Often the electricity fails to dispatch the whale, so it takes 15-20 minutes of this torture before it drowns and dies.

Hmm, maybe I should take Elsa to Norway this summer and make sure no one kills 87365. Maybe we should do the same thing for the minkes.

Whaling was once crucial to human exploration and settlement of the New World. In many places traditional whaling provided an extra source of food for survival. But whaling is no longer a necessary evil. To continue whaling in our modern societies and to talk about 'sustainable' whaling, or continued whaling because it was a tradition, or because it provides meat, is nonsense and ignores the suffering these animals endure. If everyone could experience contact with whales in the water, it would be impossible to contemplate the brutality of killing them with exploding harpoons or any other means. After swimming with a whale in its own element, when we are so vulnerable and they are so powerful yet gentle with us, would change the attitude of the most cynical of whalers. If the whalers could have an insight into these animals, hear their screams when they are harpooned, witness the devastation it causes to the social group, I'm sure they would be moved to stop whaling.

Dr Roger Payne puts it succinctly:

"It is because whales are such grand and glowing creatures that their destruction degrades us so. It will confound our descendants. We were the generation that searched Mars for the most tenuous evidence of life but couldn't rouse enough moral outrage to stop the destruction of the grandest manifestations of life here on earth.'

Right now the International Whaling Commission is meeting in Portugal where the Japanese will once again try to legitimize commercial whaling. If they can't manage this, they will continue to use a loophole in the IWC regulations to conduct lethal 'scientific' research on thousands of whales in the Southern Oceans Whale Sanctuary.

This despite the fact that on January 15, 2008 in a landmark decision, the Australian Federal Court ruled that whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary was illegal under Australian law in a civil case brought by Humane Society International. It is the first time a court of law has determined the legality of whaling.

In the landmark decision in the case - Humane Society International Inc v Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha Ltd, the operator of the whaling fleet - the court found that Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean Whaling Sanctuary contravenes Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 of the Commonwealth of Australia.:

1. THE COURT DECLARES that the respondent has killed, injured, taken and interfered with Antarctic minke whales (Balaenoptera bonaerensis) and fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) and injured, taken and interfered with humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) in the Australian Whale Sanctuary in contravention of sections 229, 229A, 229B and 229C of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth), (the "Act"), and has treated and possessed such whales killed or taken in the Australian Whale Sanctuary in contravention of sections 229D and 230 of the Act, without permission or authorisation under sections 231, 232 or 238 of the Act.

2. THE COURT ORDERS that the respondent be restrained from killing, injuring, taking or interfering with any Antarctic minke whale (Balaenoptera bonaerensis), fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) or humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) in the Australian Whale Sanctuary, or treating or possessing any such whale killed or taken in the Australian Whale Sanctuary, unless permitted or authorised under sections 231, 232 or 238 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth).

 

Japan does not recognise Australian jurisdiction in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. The Humane Society International called the decision historic in that it is the first time the Japanese whalers have been taken to court and it confirms that the hunt is illegal. HSI will serve the order that the hunt be stopped at the company’s headquarters in Tokyo immediately and have called on them to abandon the hunt immediately.

HSI also called on the Australian Labor government to live up their pre-election commitment to enforce the Federal Court injunction against the whalers immediately so that no more whales are killed in the Australian Whale Sanctuary this summer.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) reiterated that the only way to permanently stop whaling by the Government of Japan is through international courts. According to three separate panels of independent, international legal experts (commissioned by IFAW) Japan’s whaling program breaches the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Antarctic Treaty System and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and the International Convention on the Regulation of Whaling.

"The world’s best legal minds have made the case. Japan’s whaling is not just cruel, it’s criminal," IFAW Campaigns Manager Darren Kindleysides said.

"If there is to be a permanent end to whaling in the Antarctic then the burden for action rests with the Australian Government and other conservation minded governments worldwide to challenge the Government of Japan through international courts." said Kindleysides.

Meanwhile the Norwegians quietly opt out of being a member of the IWC and allow their coastal fishermen to continue their 'traditional' whaling using exploding harpoons on hundreds of minkes.